"value" isn't the initial thought of Land Rover lovers. But remember
the word when perusing the next generation Freelander for '04. While, admittedly,
surpassing our "cute ute" price guide, we opted for heritage and credentials
when putting it on our list.
is the most significant change since this upmarket's entry level SUV originally
rolled out on the roads of Europe a half-dozen years ago. Now, with some 700 changes
and more of its big brother Range Rover in look, it's aimed squarely at the heart
of the premiere compact SUV market in the states.
buyers in America have had three years to gauge its list of "go anywhere"
attributes, expanded for '04. Think 33-degree hill-climbing capability. Think
a "wading" depth of 16 inches (a stall-preventing plus, perhaps, when
spring rains obliterate the curb line on streets). An improved soft top on the
sporty SE3 version, with grabbable wraparound roof rails, just shouts it will
command untamed territory.
standard, 174-horsepower V-6 engine gets a breathtaking companion list of safety
and security features, adding anti-theft engine immobilization, and a heated windshield
of all things. For after-crash safety, an inertia switch unlocks doors, turns
on hazard lights and stops fuel flow. Whatever "crush cans" attached
to the chassis are, they're replaceable. Anything that's replaceable these days
has to be good.
about '04 improvements? Well, finally, the annoyingly positioned CD changer that
used to live under the passenger seat has been moved to the dash where it belonged
all along. In the spirit of "bigger is better," there are optional 18"
alloy sport wheels. For American tastes, even the cup holders seem to have pumped
up on steroids. And, for those at the low-end model scale, think suede when touching
the new, soft fabric "Alcantara" seat covers.
this year are three separate models, now merged into two. The new entry level
model, formerly midrange, retails about $400 more than last year's base. Including
destination, it rings in at $26,000. While not exactly bargain priced, you could
think of it as luxury DNA on a low-end scale.